Environmental Protection

Mobile App Could Save Marine Communities

A researcher from Texas A&M University has simplified the task of counting shellfish by creating a cellphone app that uses GPS, making tracking over-harvested populations of the species simpler than ever. The app may one day help scientists track other marine life.

In Hawaii, opihi is a shellfish considered to be a delicacy and only served on special occasions. The shellfish is also a protagonist in several children’s books and proverbs in the Hawaiian culture. Unfortunately, the opihi populations are dwindling and Dr. Chris Bird, assistant professor in the College of Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has developed an android app to help making tracking the shellfish a much easier task.

The app uses GPS which allows the researchers to pinpoint the exact location of where the shellfish were spotted; it also records exactly what was found at that time.

“Under this management strategy, hubs of population connectivity are designated as ‘opihi pu'uhonua (places of refuge) that reproduce and seed harvested locations,” said Bird. “We are beginning similar work on identifying hubs of population connectivity in Gulf of Mexico oysters.”

Bird hopes to see his research used to advance the understanding of marine population biology, fisheries management, and is being used to directly inform new management strategies being discussed by the State of Hawaii and Hawaiian communities. 

Bird, along with Dr. Robert Toonen at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii State Sen. Clayton Hee and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, co-authored a Bill last year aimed at implementing a new management strategy that is informed by science and is sensitive to the concerns of fishermen, fish markets, and Hawaiian culture. 

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